Introductions: Ted Hughes (03:09)
Listen to excerpts of "Hawk Roosting," "Second Glance at a Jaguar," and "Examination of the Womb-door." This episode will explore how Ted Hughes' life influenced his poetry. (Credits)
Last Poetry Book (02:57)
"Birthday Letters" was published nine months prior to Hughes' death. He sent his daughter Frieda the book, which addressed his relationship with her mother, Sylvia Plath. John Bate describes Hughes' process of writing and revision.
Adoration of Sylvia Plath (02:41)
Over the course of his writing career, Hughes poetry evolved into a personal voice. Simon Armitage tours Hughes' hometown of Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire. Listen to an excerpt of "The Rock."
Hughes brother, Gerald, taught him how to hunt and fish at an early age. Frieda recalls how Hughes taught her to skin a badger at an early age. Armitage discusses how Hughes really became the animal while writing his poetry— listen to an excerpt of "The Pike."
Scholarship to Cambridge (03:54)
Hughes dreamt of a fox walking across an essay on poetry leaving bloody paw prints in its wake. He believed he would never become a skilled writer unless he quit studying English— he switched his major to anthropology. Listen to an excerpt of the "The Thought-Fox."
Interest in the Occult (02:36)
Hughes regularly performed séances and used a Ouija board. Daniel Huws recounts how he manipulated the board so Hughes believed a spirit named "Pan" was speaking to him.
"St. Botolph's Review" (02:09)
At the launch party, Hughes met Sylvia Plath. They each came with someone else; they drank, danced, and kissed— Plath bit Hughes. Listen to an excerpt from "Birthday Letters."
Hughes Relationship with Plath (02:35)
Frieda recounts how her father's space was a mess, while her mother's tidy. Plath used to type up Hughes' work on his behalf. She submitted "The Hawk in the Rain" for the Galbraith Prize.
Poetry Editor of "The Observer" (02:15)
Al Alvarez championed "The Hawk in the Rain." Listen to an excerpt of "Hawk Roosting." Experts discuss why the work was revolutionary.
Second Collection (02:24)
"Lupercal" received great acclaim while Plath's collection, "The Colossus," was largely ignored. Robert Lowell released "Life Studies," which inspired Plath to write about her own struggle with depression. Elizabeth Sigmund remembers how Hughes asked her to lunch after inviting them stay at her country home.
Move to the Country (03:08)
Freida reads her own poetry. Plath started working on "The Bell Jar" in conjunction with her poetry. Hughes tried to help her by hypnotizing her and encouraging her to embrace the occult.
Affair with Assia Wevill (02:10)
Wevill and her husband became tenants of Hughes and Plath at their London flat. Hear an excerpt from "Sea Witch."
Ted Moves Out (02:00)
Plath created bonfires, burning up Hughes work. Listen to excerpts from "Daddy," "Where Did It All Go Right?," and "The God" written about the time period.
Move Back to London (03:24)
Plath decides to rent an apartment in Chalcot Square. Hughes "The Difficulties of the Bridegroom" is broadcast on the radio. Plath takes her own life— it is uncertain if she meant to be successful.
Hughes is Devastated (02:51)
Hughes ensured Plath's work was published. "Collected Poems" won the Pulitzer Prize. In 1965, Wevill had a child with Hughes. She felt that Plath was haunting her.
Power of Poetry (01:59)
The "Crow" poems came from Hughes interest in anthropology and Inuit religion. Bates describes it as an Anti-Bible. Listen to an excerpt of "Examination of the Womb-door."
Murder Suicide (02:19)
Wevill wanted to marry Hughes, but he resisted. She killed herself and her daughter using a gas oven in March 1969.
Marriage Carol Orchard (03:02)
Hughes reputation is criticized. Listen to an excerpt in "Arraignment." Bates describes how Hughes became "the demonic husband."
Writing Struggles (02:41)
Listen to an excerpt of a letter to friend. In 1976, Hughes attends Adelaide Arts festival where he is spat and cursed at. Jill Barber describes how she met Hughes and reads a poem he wrote about her.
In 1977, Hughes releases "Gaudete" an erotic poem about a doppelganger who seduces all the women is his parish. Armitage explains that the audience responded to the epilogue, which discussed the death of his love. Listen to an excerpt.
Poet Laureate (05:03)
Armitage explains how watching Hughes read his own work impacted his personal writing career. Hughes final two collections "Tales from Ovid" and "Birthday Letters" generated great acclaim. Hughes was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1998.
Credits: Ted Hughes (00:40)
Credits: Ted Hughes
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